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Thread: Scholastic Building by Aldo Rossi

  1. #1

    Default Scholastic Building by Aldo Rossi

    "Rossi loved New York's skyscrapers and its orderly grid, but he also had an eye for the city's accidents and mysteries..."

    by William Higgins

    Late last summer, Aldo Rossi's design for a new office building in Soho received its final city approvals. Within a few weeks, the architect was dead, following a car accident near his home on Lago Maggiore in northern Italy. Rossi will be missed by all who know his work, and especially by those who knew the man.

    I came to know Aldo Rossi through our work together on his only New York project. My memories of him are grounded in many months of meetings, conversations, presentations, drinks, and meals--the close interactions that ultimately result in buildings, and occasionally in friendships. Like his buildings, Rossi was at once serious and whimsical, magisterial and accessible, popular and retiring. Although an influential teacher and theoretician, he was at heart an artist and a visual poet, and that is the way he designed his buildings.

    Rossi's Soho project, an extension of Scholastic Publishing's headquarters on lower Broadway, is a case in point. The building's columnar Broadway facade, in steel, terra-cotta, and stone, echoes the scale and the formal, Classical character of its commercial neighbors. The rear facade, on Mercer Street, extracts a gritty essence from its more utilitarian surroundings of plain cast iron and weathered masonry. Paul Goldberger has praised the Scholastic design as "a building that will teach generations of architects the proper way to respond to historic contexts." True enough, but it will teach more than propriety. It will teach poetry as well.

    Rossi loved New York's skyscrapers and its orderly grid, but he also had an eye for the city's accidents and mysteries, for the New York of unfinished lot-line walls, dark side streets, and rusting fire escapes. One of the architect's best sketches for the Soho building shows the Broadway facade in mist and shadow, under the kind of irregular light that might have filtered through nineteenth-century coal smoke. Rossi's mind was in this time and place when he first conceived the building. I remember him at an early meeting in his studio on East 20th Street, when he looked out a rear window toward a chance landscape of common brick walls, asphalt roofs, and wooden water tanks. The towers of Madison Square and Midtown were visible, but only at a distance. He said simply, "This is the New York I love."

    Publicly and privately, Rossi always said it would be an honor to have a building in New York, and especially on Broadway. There was a real, unforced humility in this. Rossi had built all over the world, and had received the highest praise for it; but he talked about the Scholastic building with the enthusiasm of a young architect celebrating his first big commission. After years of design and review, it finally looks as though there will be an Aldo Rossi building on Broadway. Sadly, the honor will come posthumously for Aldo, but his building will be an honor to New York for as long as it stands.

  2. #2


    April 23, 2000
    A Building Fits In by Standing Out

    THERE are easy ways to expand a headquarters. Then there is the way chosen by Scholastic Inc. at 557 Broadway:

    Construct an entirely new building on a prime site in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, one of the most scrutinized landmark precincts in New York; containing almost twice the floor area that zoning rules allowed on the site; designed by Aldo Rossi, the celebrated Italian architect who had never before worked in the city and who died in a car accident before the project began; requiring the service of the tallest freestanding tower crane ever erected in New York; on property leased from seven different members of a single family, where another tenant was already in place; next door to an artists' co-op whose units would lose light, air and even whole windows; with foundations not only on sandy soil but so close to the subway platform that one could almost hear the announcements aboard the N and R trains as they passed.

    So what was Scholastic? Crazy?

    ''Yes,'' said Richard Robinson, the president, chairman and chief executive of the 80-year-old children's publishing and media company (Harry Potter and ''The Magic School Bus''), in the cheerful tones of a man who is very close to winning an audacious gamble.

    ''It was crazy, but it all turned out fine,'' he said. ''It started as an efficiency move on my part but it was transformed by Aldo into efficiency and a vision so compelling that it made it even more appealing.''

    The transformation of that vision into an emerging reality -- the 10-story building between Spring and Prince Streets is to be finished in December -- has taken six years. But this is not a story of bureaucratic intransigence. (The Landmarks Preservation Commission, for instance, deliberated less than an hour before approving Mr. Rossi's plans, unanimously and unaltered.)

    Instead, it is an account, different only by degree, of the complexities faced by anyone building in multilayered Manhattan.

    It shows that distinctive architecture need not be lost in the process -- indeed, that it can be used strategically to win support. ''We did kind of fight this thing behind the design,'' said Patric O'Malley, vice president of Gensler, the architectural firm that was allied in the project with Aldo Rossi Studio di Architettura.

    The financial implications are less clear, since Scholastic would not put a price tag on the project, other than to say that the core and shell of the new building cost $18 million. The company is receiving an eight-year exemption on the real estate taxes that are attributable to the increased value of the property.

    Admirers of Mr. Rossi's design believe that the Scholastic Building will become a landmark in its own right, a building with a bold and clearly contemporary identity -- stout columns on Broadway and monumental arches at the rear of the building on Mercer Street -- that nonetheless honors its historic context.

    The Broadway facade aligns with Scholastic's existing headquarters next door, at No. 555, the former dry-goods store built by Charles Broadway Rouss in 1889 and 1900. The red entablatures and deeply recessed curtain wall evoke the Little Singer Building at No. 561, a co-op with lofts and offices.

    On the Mercer Street facade are five tiers of two-story, industrial-strength, angled, webbed steel arches, bolted together with a jeweler's precision.

    Mr. Rossi's building is intended to serve as Scholastic's front door. On the ground floor and mezzanine will be a 6,700-square-foot store with the company's books, magazines, CD-ROM's, videos, games, puzzles, toys and art supplies.

    Downstairs will be a 299-seat auditorium whose stage setting -- an array of three street scenes in forced perspective -- owes its design to Palladio's 16th-century Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy.

    Upstairs, the new 10,000-square-foot floors will align with and expand the existing floors at 555 Broadway by 50 percent. Among the innovative features will be under-the-floor air-conditioning, eliminating the need for overhead ducts.

    ''It's coming at a perfect time for the company,'' Mr. Robinson said, ''because we need the space, at a time when there is a great premium on space.''

    Scholastic owns the new building but is leasing the land from the Blechman family, who have been on the block since 1938, when Simon Blechman moved his wholesale dry-goods company, S. Blechman & Sons, into the old Rouss store at 555 Broadway.

    S. Blechman & Sons, which dealt in hosiery, underwear and other furnishings, went out of business in 1948, said Donald Blechman, one of Simon's grandsons, who was allowed as a boy to run the elevators.

    IN 1990, the family sold the Rouss store to the Ise Hiyoko investment group of Japan but held on to a 50-by-200-foot parcel next door, at No. 557, which contained a one-story garage and lumber yard. It is owned today by seven family members -- three in Florida, two in California and two in New York. (The artist R. O. Blechman is part of this family but is not an owner of the SoHo property.)

    Enter Scholastic, a company founded in 1920 by Mr. Robinson's father, Maurice R. Robinson, in the second-floor sewing room of his parents' home in Wilkinsburg, Pa. The company moved to New York in 1931 and into the former Wanamaker warehouse, 730 Broadway, near Fourth Street, in 1982.

    In 1992, the company leased most of 555 Broadway. Over the next two years, Scholastic and Ise spent $35 million to renovate the building, working with Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates.

    It also contemplated building next door, said Bill Bretschger, director of real estate development. However, the garage was leased to the Kalodop Park Corporation, whose partners include Sam Podolak.

    After Scholastic entered into a letter of intent with the Blechmans to lease and develop the property, Kalodop sued in 1994. ''We wouldn't sell our lease,'' said Milton S. Shapiro of Graubard Mollen & Miller, a lawyer for Kalodop. A financial settlement was reached in 1996 that kept Kalodop on the lease but left Scholastic free to build.

    Scholastic also has the option to purchase the property when the lease expires in 2013. Meanwhile, Mr. Bretschger said, individual Blechman family members may sell their interests to Scholastic, allowing the company to assume ownership gradually.

    Even while fighting with Kalodop, Scholastic began searching for architects. Besides Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, it considered Gensler, Fox & Fowle and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, among others.

    As it happened, Gensler had collaborated in 1991 with Mr. Rossi and his New York partner, Morris Adjmi, on an unbuilt headquarters project for what is now called Disneyland Paris, in Marne la Vallee.

    ''We developed a happy working relationship with Rossi,'' recalled Mr. O'Malley of Gensler. Referring to offices dominated by one flamboyant genius, he added about the Rossi studio: ''They're not like some of the other black capes. They're practical, down-to-earth, easy-to-work-with people.''

    Down-to-earth as he might have been, Mr. Rossi was certainly not lacking high-toned credentials. In 1990, he won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in the profession.

    ''His buildings carry echoes from the past in their use of forms that have a universal, haunting quality,'' the Pritzker jury said. ''His work is at once bold and ordinary, original without being novel, refreshingly simple in appearance but extremely complex in content and meaning.''

    Mr. Rossi could not have arrived at a better moment for Mr. Robinson, who was beginning to despair about the complexities of the project. ''For a while, I felt it was the white whale,'' he said. ''Then Aldo came into the picture and by creating this presence, it became a living reality.''

    ''It took him only five minutes to come up with the solution,'' said Mr. Robinson, likening Mr. Rossi's early sketches to the perfect freehand circle that the artist Giotto drew when he was asked by Pope Boniface VIII for a sample of his work.

    For the Scholastic project, Mr. Rossi borrowed motifs from earlier buildings. The Broadway facade, for example, recalls the Hotel Il Palazzo of 1989 in Fukuoka, Japan.

    ''When I saw that, I said, 'This is going to be our building,' '' Mr. Bretschger recalled.

    There is a symmetry to that, Mr. Adjmi said, because the hotel was influenced by cast-iron architecture, meaning that the design is now returning to its source.

    The Gensler-Rossi team was selected in 1994. Scholastic also brought on board Jesse Masyr of Gold & Wachtel, former deputy borough president of Manhattan and one of the foremost land-use lawyers in the city; William J. Higgins of Higgins & Quasebarth, as preservation consultant; and Robert Silman Associates as structural engineers.

    It was a formidable team that arrived in 1996 at the Little Singer Building to present Scholastic's plans to the Singer Studio Corporation, as the co-op is known. The 96-year-old loft was once the smaller sibling of the Singer Building at Broadway and Liberty Street. Both were designed by Ernest Flagg. Big Singer was razed in 1967. Little Singer now has 15 joint living-work quarters for artists and 20 offices.

    The presentation by Scholastic left most of the board in a state of shock, said John Blanchard, a longtime consultant to the co-op, ''both because of the manner of their approach -- 'How could you dislike us?' -- and the fact that what they were asking for was well beyond the zoning.''

    THE building that Scholastic proposed extended to the property line, with no setbacks, threatening to cast an entire bank of lofts into gloom.

    Rather than seeking monetary compensation from Scholastic, the co-op decided to try to influence the design and persuade the company to carve out a more ample light court from its property-line wall.

    It was all but too late to make the case to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Even though Mr. Blanchard had the chance to speak at the hearing in June 1996, he said he had a sense that the session was a ''coronation'' ceremony for Mr. Rossi.

    Indeed, the commission found that the new Scholastic Building would ''enhance the special architecture and historical character'' of the SoHo-Cast Iron district.

    Jennifer J. Raab, chairwoman of the commission, said last week that the Scholastic Building offered a ''textbook example'' of how to build in a historic district. ''Mr. Rossi was able to design a new facade that respected the character of Broadway but didn't inappropriately try to mimic it,'' she said. ''And then he was more daring on the utilitarian Mercer Street facade.''

    ''He executed it brilliantly,'' she said. ''There was no need to tinker.''

    Armed with approval from the landmarks commission, Scholastic moved quickly to the Board of Standards and Appeals, a five-member city panel that has the power to override zoning for specific projects.

    The co-op hired its own heavy-hitting land-use lawyer, Shelly S. Friedman, of Friedman & Gotbaum. ''The B.S.A. process allowed us to introduce the issue of having some equity here,'' he said. The co-op also got a sympathetic hearing from Community Board No. 2, Mr. Blanchard said, which ''helped throw us into a more serious negotiation'' with Scholastic.

    One of the key questions before the appeals board was the size of the Scholastic Building, almost twice as large as zoning would permit on the site, where a new building would ordinarily be limited to a floor area no more than five times the lot size (that is, a floor-area ratio of 5 to 1).

    Usually, existing buildings in a historic district are considerably smaller than modern zoning would allow. The 11-story Rouss Store and 12-story Little Singer Building, however, are quite a bit larger. A structure that conformed to zoning, with five or six stories, would look out of place.

    ''Here, to be sure, smaller would not be better,'' said Roger P. Lang of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, testifying before the board in favor of the Rossi design. ''Its scale is similar to the adjoining buildings, as it should be to maintain the prevailing street-wall and cornice line.''

    The magnitude of the variance sought by Scholastic was ''singular,'' said Robert E. Flahive, former vice chairman of the Board of Standards and Appeals, who is now a planning and development specialist at the law firm of Rosenman & Colin.

    And yet, Mr. Flahive said: ''We didn't have to spend time agonizing over whether we were giving them too much. It lent itself to that site.''

    It turned out that the most contentious issue before the board was the size of the light courts on the north wall of the Scholastic Building. It undoubtedly helped the cause of Little Singer and 90 Prince Street, which is also affected, that the board chairman, James Chin, is a former community board leader from Staten Island.

    ''On every project, he looks at the impact on surrounding neighbors,'' said the board's executive director, Pasquale Pacifico. ''He'll look to say, 'Who's hurt by this?' He'll wait for the community board input before we make a decision.''

    As the result of negotiations -- ''We studied that interior as meticulously as we studied the facades,'' Mr. Bretschger said -- two light courts were fashioned. Facing Little Singer, from the fourth to eighth floors, is a setback 15 feet from the property line, deepening to 25 feet from the eighth floor to the roof. Facing 90 Prince Street is a 10-foot setback beginning on the fourth floor.

    As a result, Scholastic lost about 3,000 square feet of space. ''They whittled us away,'' Mr. Robinson said. Scholastic proposed to recapture the space in a penthouse addition but the board would not hear of it. ''We felt we had given at the office at that point,'' Mr. Flahive recalled.

    There was more bad news for Scholastic in early 1997. Sales of the popular ''Goosebumps'' children's thrillers were falling off, leading the company to announce that it would cut 400 jobs, including 10 percent of its 1,200 employees in New York.

    Scholastic did not consider giving up the development of 557 Broadway, Mr. Bretschger said, although it temporarily sublet the property back to Kalodop to continue operating the garage.

    FINALLY, on Aug. 5, 1997, the modified plan won approval from Mr. Chin, Mr. Flahive and two other board members, with the fifth member absent. Scholastic ended up with 87,880 square feet of space on its 10,000-square-foot lot, a floor-area ratio approaching 9 to 1. (It also has 20,000 feet below ground that does not count in zoning calculations.)

    Mr. Adjmi telephoned Mr. Rossi in Italy to give him the news that the last big hurdle had been cleared. ''He was very excited,'' Mr. Adjmi said. ''It really was one of his favorite projects -- just the idea of building in New York and building on Broadway.''

    The accident occurred 18 days later.

    Mr. Rossi was headed to his villa on Lago Maggiore, in the lake region not far from the Swiss border. ''Those roads are very narrow and curvy,'' Mr. Adjmi said. ''It wasn't even that late at night, but one of his tires went off the side of the road and he hit an embankment.'' Mr. Rossi emerged from the crash looking all right and when Mr. Adjmi arrived at the hospital outside Milan, he found his mentor still conscious. Within days, however, Mr. Rossi's condition deteriorated. On Sept. 4, he died, at the age of 66.

    Mr. Bretschger was in Toronto when he received word of Mr. Rossi's death. He did not focus at first on the question of whether 557 Broadway would proceed until he received a call from a New York Times reporter working on Mr. Rossi's obituary.

    Yes, he said, the project would go on.

    Construction began in 1998. Because pile driving posed too great a potential hazard to the century-old neighbors and the nearby subway tunnels, 557 Broadway has been constructed atop a 38-inch-thick concrete mat that is 34 feet below street level. The settlement of adjacent buildings has been kept within the original half-inch estimate, Joseph F. Tortorella, a principal in the Silman engineering firm, said last week.

    Apart from the unresolved issue of where the rooftop emergency generator will be located on the Scholastic Building, construction has proceeded largely without incident, Mr. Blanchard said. He said HRH Construction had done a ''great job, from what we've been able to see.''

    That is not to say that he is enamored of the new building. The white columns remind him of candy stripes, Mr. Blanchard said.

    Margot Gayle, the moving force behind the creation of the SoHo-Cast Iron district in 1973, said she could not understand the landmarks commission's enthusiasm. ''Those large, intrusive columns just don't fit,'' she said. ''They're not friendly to their neighboring buildings.''

    But Dianne Dubler, a photographer who lives in Little Singer, sees it differently. ''Somebody was going to build a building there,'' she said. ''In the end, when all is said and done, I think it was great that it was Rossi who designed it.''

    In the Rossi studio at 45 East 20th Street, two other commissions await completion that were won while he was still alive: a building for ABC on the Disney campus in Burbank, Calif., and a private home in Orchard Lake, Mich. After that, Mr. Adjmi said, he will no longer practice under the Rossi name. ''Of all the architects, Aldo's sensibilities were closest to mine,'' he said. ''But the wrong thing for me to do would be to pretend that I am Aldo.''

    Besides, at least in New York City, Mr. Rossi's legacy is already tangible. ''It's a great thing that we're able to finish his vision,'' Mr. Robinson said, ''instead of leaving it as an entry in a book.''

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  3. #3


    The House That Harry Potter Built
    Published in The Independent on Sunday (London)
    July 10, 2000

    A magical new building in SoHo

    by Fred A. Bernstein

    In his fourth book, which began flying out of stores yesterday, Harry Potter finds a few new ways to use his magic. But to New Yorkers, Harry's greatest magic feat of all may be the one taking shape on the lower Manhattan skyline: With his help, the wish of a visionary Italian architect, who dreamed of building in New York, is finally being realized -- three years after he died in a car crash while driving to his house on Lake Maggiore.

    The building is the new home of Scholastic Inc, the publisher of Harry Potter books in the US. The fourth instalment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, should take Scholastic's profits into the stratosphere, with its astonishing press run of 3.8 million copies in the US alone. No wonder the new building will contain a store jammed with Potter merchandise, and the lobby will feature a statue not of the company's founder, but of a bespectacled boy riding a broomstick.

    The building, designed by the late Aldo Rossi, fills a site on Broadway in SoHo. Both sides of the street are lined with late 19th century commercial buildings, many with classically-ordered, cast-iron facades. Rossi uses stripped-down and exaggerated classical elements -- including the chunkiest columns this side of Luxor -- to create a cartoon-like take on the neighbourhood's design motifs. But this is serious architecture and, with its wry references not only to its neighbours on Broadway, but to the buildings that inspired them, a lesson in skilfully weaving new design into an old (and precious) fabric. Although it won't be fully occupied until next year (the store is scheduled to open in October), and though it's only 10 storeys high, the building is already one of the more compelling additions to the cityscape in decades.

    Despite a sign announcing the new home of Potter's publisher -- Harry himself appears to be flying off the billboard -- it is the building itself that stops New Yorkers in their tracks. And although the building was designed before Scholastic became the Potter factory, the fit between the magic books and the magical building couldn't be better.

    In the first book in the series, Harry Potter sets out to buy school supplies, including wands, cauldrons, pointed hats, and dragon-hide gloves.

    "Can we buy all this in London?" Harry asks his wizened guide, Hagrid. "If yeh know where to go," Hagrid replies, before leading Harry to a series of shops that are invisible to the uninitiated. Thus, in the view of Harry's creator, JK Rowling, cities are layered with magical surprises for those who look beyond the obvious.

    Rossi, born in Milan in 1931, would share that view. Until the 1980s, he was best known for readable but academic books about the nature of cities -- which he believed were layered with meaning that could be mined by architects; his goal was to tap into the public's collective memory. According to the critic Herbert Muschamp, "He liked to say that he never invented forms. Rather, he remembered them." His best known building (at least until the Scholastic Headquarters is finished) is the 1971 Cemetery of San Cataldo in Modena, Italy, a seemingly endless colonnade with a gabled roof surrounding a simple cube-like ossuary.

    Rossi's cemetery drove critics to rapture and was responsible for his winning architecture's highest honour, the Pritzker Prize.

    It was followed by a series of buildings, most in Italy, that use elemental shapes to dramatic effect: gables, circles, colonnades, often stripped down and reinvented in primary colours, evoking, as Julie Iovine wrote in Rossi's New York Times obituary, "the resonance of a recurring dream or the lyricism of a de Chirico painting." In 1986, Rossi opened a design office in New York, in the hopes of bringing that lyricism to the United States. Morris Adjmi, a former student and Rossi's partner in that office, remembers that after initial bursts of interest, one project after another fell through. The most significant was an architecture school for the University of Miami, which occupied Rossi and Adjmi for years but was never funded.

    In the meantime, the peripatetic Rossi got to know New York. Among his favourite buildings were the cast iron warehouses of SoHo, many of which consist of posts and lintels ordered from catalogues and assembled on site; Rossi drew facades inspired by those early pre-fab buildings, but never obtained a New York commission. Eventually, he got to use his SoHo ideas on a hotel, Il Palazzo, in Fukuoka, Japan, with monumental columns fused onto the facade -- an arresting building in part because its components are so baldly out of context.

    In the mid Nineties, Scholastic began looking for a way to expand its headquarters. The company was crowded into a former drygoods store in the landmark cast-iron district. A site was available next door (between the drygoods store and an intricate commercial building of red brick and green metal) but what could possibly pass muster with the landmarks crowd? The company contacted Gensler and Associates, an architecture firm known as a corporate problem solver; Gensler had developed a relationship with Rossi and decided to enlist his help on a proposal for Scholastic. According to Adjmi, Rossi envisioned SoHo, with its factory-made Corinthian columns, as "caught between the classical world and the industrial world." He designed a classical facade for the front, and a more industrial facade for the rear - on gritty Mercer Street. That facade, with its highly articulated steel arches, is fascinating in itself. But the Broadway side is the show stopper. Because of its ample columns, the facade is more than two feet deep - indeed, over the course of ten floors, it eats up enough floor space for a dozen offices. But Scholastic loved the design. "It's toy like in its simplicity," says Bill Bretschger of Scholastic, explaining the scheme's appeal to the children's publishing company.

    Eventually, Scholastic had Rossi plan the building's public spaces, including a lobby sheathed in metal, terra cotta and stucco, drawing the exterior themes indoors (the Harry statuary is a recent addition to the scheme), a basement theatre modelled on Palladio's 16th-century Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, and a cafe.

    The idea, according to Adjmi, is to scatter enough interesting amenities throughout the building, to keep visitors delighted. If anyone's work can do that, it is Rossi's.

    Still, there were problems, including neighbours angry that the building -- twice as large as permitted by zoning regulations -- would throw their art studios into shadow. But the Landmarks Commission liked the building so much, it approved Rossi's design on the first go-round.

    Adjmi called Rossi in Italy to tell him the good news. Eighteen days later, the architect drove off the side of a winding road near Lake Maggiore. When Adjmi arrived at the hospital in Milan, his mentor was still conscious. Within days, however, Rossi's condition had deteriorated. He died on 4 September, 1997, aged 66.

    Back in New York, there was more bad news. Sales of a series of children's thrillers, called Goosebumps, fell so steeply that Scholastic's stock dropped 40 percent in one day, and the company began announcing layoffs. Remembers Adjmi: "Everyone said, 'Uh-oh, the building will never happen.'" But Scholastic pressed ahead, committing $ 18 million for the building's shell. And then Potter hit; Scholastic has sold 21 million copies of the first three books alone.

    But the company hasn't asked Adjmi to substitute marble for concrete, or gold for steel. "The budget," he says, "is the budget." Adjmi is amazed that the building is a reality; his only regret, of course, is that Rossi isn't here to see it.

    "This was a really important project for him." At the same time, Adjmi is finishing another Rossi building in a prominent location: a 400,000 square foot office building on the Disney lot in Burbank, California. Visible from one of LA's busiest freeways, the building overshadows Disney structures by Michael Graves (with the Seven Dwarfs as caryatids) and another by Robert Stern (with a 50-foot-high "sorcerer's hat" office). When both buildings are finished, Rossi will be a household name in the US.

    It's hardly the first time an architect's plans have been realized after his death, but it's hard to remember another architect whose posthumous buildings were so important to his reputation. (Frank Lloyd Wright's heirs finished dozens of buildings supposedly conceived by Wright, but did them so badly that the architect's reputation was hurt.) Adjmi, whose office is lined with Rossi's fanciful renderings, many of which will end up in museums, has no desire to ride his mentor's coattails; he has already begun designing under his own name.

    "It would be a mistake for me to pretend that I am Aldo," he says. Perhaps that's why he gets along with Rossi's son, Fausto, a philosopher now engaged in cataloguing his father's materials, and daughter, Vera, an actress.

    One hundred or so pages into the first Potter book, Rowling describes the building in which Harry goes to school: "There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn't open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place . . ." By the time it's finished, Rossi's building may be almost as delightful.

  4. #4
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    I'm lucky enough to live right nearby this building.

    It's a great new interpretation of classic SoHo cast iron architecture.

    And all my neighbors were so happy when they finally finished the 4 month job of jack-hammering the two story brick & steel parking garage / lumber yard that previously was on this site!

  5. #5
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    Exactly, and finally get rid of that sidewalk scaffolding too.

    They did a great job with this building, which couldn't have been easy to do being right next to the beautiful Little Singer Building. That whole block is great.

  6. #6
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Quote Originally Posted by NYatKNIGHT
    Exactly, and finally get rid of that sidewalk scaffolding too.
    Yes, please!

    I can't figure out what is up with that -- they finished most of the facade reno at the Rouss building about 1 year ago but are seemingly still working on the two "turrets" up top.

    C'mon guys, let's finish this job!!

  7. #7


    I lived in the little red brick building with the curved iron fire escapes, two doors down from the Scholastic Building. I never liked the Scholastic Building, though. More for personal taste reasons than quality of architecture. It seems sort of childish looking to me. Which I know is fitting for Scholastic, but I just don't like it. Maybe it's the color scheme. I definately don't like the white columns.

    However, this building is wonderful...

  8. #8


    That's just the back of the Scholastic, isn't it?

  9. #9
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Yep, facing Mercer St.

    So, greenie, we were neighbors!!

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by czsz
    That's just the back of the Scholastic, isn't it?
    Oh, haha. I had no idea.

    The back is better than the front, in that case.

    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1
    So, greenie, we were neighbors!!
    Seems that way. I only lived there for four months, though - roommate was creepy.

  11. #11
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    I am with you on this greenie. I kind of like the industrial rear facade better than the front facade. The front looks like a post modern simplification of classical design. It is not objectionable, but I just do not like it.

    The other thing about it is something that will probably show up in a few years. Whenever precast materials are used on a simplified linear facade, watermarks become readily apparent from any of the seams, drain points or other features.

    While these marks sometimes lend character to a classic facade, they often mar a simple or modern one.

    This one might experience problems late on with its simple, bold light colored round columns.

    I think they are probably the key feature that I do not like. It is like they are trying to be Doric, but forgot all their history...

  12. #12


    Beautiful building. Proof you can be simultaneously contextual and original. Architecture as good as it gets. In its own way at least as good as Hearst, while much less flashy. We need more buildings like this.

  13. #13
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    East Midtown


    I also prefer the back. Very nice.

  14. #14


    Those white columns are just soooo white. They make me think of women who wear white stockings...ew. It IS a nice building ...but still..... something about it says "Michael Graves".

  15. #15
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    When the Rossi building went up I kept thinking that the city grime would dull-down the whiteness of the columns -- but they seem to be tenacious and have maintained their boldness.

    In the last year they have re-painted the facade of the other building in the Scholastic "set" (the Rouss building next door). When I first moved into the area many moons ago the Rouss building was empty and painted a dull brown all over. It remained that way for years on end until SoHo started to boom. A number of years ago the Rouss facade was partially restored and painted in a polychrome of muted colors complimentary to the Little Singer Building -- browns, rusts, greens (which the city grime eventually muted even further). The latest and more extensive facade renovation of the Rouss should be completed soon (they actually removed a large percentage of the original cast iron pieces in order to do extensive work on both the brick and iron beneath, and have now replaced all of the formerly missing cast iron elements). The Rouss is now two-tones of creamy beige and looks great -- still complimentary to both the Rossi building and the Little Singer ... and somehow seems to mute the whiteness of Rossi's columns.

    Hopefully the final bits of renovation will soon be complete, the street shed will come down and the facade lighting that has been installed on the Rouss and the Rossi will be fully turned on to show off both in all their glory.

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